How interesting to see a reporter in the car industry’s favourite newspaper, Automotive News, naming this year’s Detroit motor show as one of the best and most interesting in the US for years.
Found myself thinking exactly the same, for a variety of disparate reasons. First, the whole thing was shorn of the usual distracting and low-rent razzamatazz. Everything that was shown seemed to have true significance.
In the run-up to the show there was comment about the cold Detroit weather (it was 15C below at times) matching the mood of the show, but my experience was that – once you had dispensed with the usual weary credit-crunch platitudes – people were as keen to talk cars as ever.
Second, the cars were good. No daft concepts going nowhere. The Volvo concept showed off the coming S60. The VW concept roadster was so desirable you wanted to drive it home. The new Jags looked terrific. So did the Merc E-class and the new Lexus hybrid.
Third, there was a curious feeling of relief that at least we had now found the low level at which the industry is going to have to operate for a while.
One industry boss told me that US car sales were currently so low that if they stayed at that level it would take 25 years to replace the whole car park – to swap the entire fleet of cars on US roads with new metal. That’s a situation which is clearly unsustainable, he told me – the industry needs a figure of roughly half that to sustain itself.
Nevertheless we’d tasted the worst, he believed, and the next major change would be an improvement, though he wasn’t looking for that until next year.
Fourth, all the right people were there. Company heads turned up in droves, aware that in this new world of stringent (or entirely absent) advertising budgets, the best way to get a message across was to try and place it in the media. That’s music to the ears of any hack and hopefully his readers.
In the months ahead, news is not going to be in short supply. It’s one of many reasons why we’re already looking forward to Geneva at the beginning of March.
See for yourself why Detroit 2009 has been such a bumper show:
Jaguar XFRNew Mercedes E-classNew Ford TaurusVW Concept BlueSportCadillac Converj conceptAudi Sportback conceptLexus HS250hChrysler 200C EV conceptSubaru Legacy conceptToyota FT-EVChevrolet SparkLincoln C ConceptFisker KarmaBYD F3DMMercedes BlueZERO